Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Grandma's Old Fashioned Boiled Custard Recipe and Eggnog Base

A heirloom recipe, Old Fashioned Boiled "Drinking" Custard, was once used regularly as a simple drink meant to sooth the sick. It's a rich and creamy beverage, just like Grandma used to make, delicious anytime and an excellent base for homemade eggnog.

Old Fashioned Drinking Custard

Looking for the best eggnog recipe? Well, look no further than old fashioned boiled custard, because that is the beginnings of a most excellent eggnog. I'm pretty sure that boiled custard, or "drinking" custard as it was once commonly referred to, is decidedly southern. Not only is it a traditional drink in The South for the holidays, but it was often used to comfort those in the sick bed. I do know one thing for sure, we southerners absolutely do love our custards, and we love them in many forms.

Homemade custard in banana pudding is simply to die for, but I love a good old fashioned custard pie or a simple baked custard myself. Boiled custard is an old timey recipe that you really don't hear much about anymore, but when Mike, one of our Facebook readers brought it up, I knew it was time it found a home here. Essentially, boiled custard is simply the base for eggnog, but minus the alcohol.

Calling it a "boiled" custard is really a misnomer though, since you don't ever want a custard to boil, but rather to cook slowly. It's a very basic cooked custard really, similar to homemade custard for banana pudding, only thinner, but using the same procedure with a double boiler, and frequent, near constant stirring. You'll know that the custard is ready when it coats the back of a spoon and you can drag your finger through the middle, leaving a path. Since it's a drinking custard we strain it for creamy perfection. I use cheesecloth over a kitchen sieve.

Since this is the holiday season, I say go ahead and turn your drinking custard into a full blown eggnog by the simple addition of some liquor, whether by the glass or by the bowl. As always, drink responsibly.  In truth, however, folks have been drinking old fashioned boiled custard without liquor for years. Like all egg custards, boiled custard is just simply heaven in a cup.

Recipe: Old Fashioned Drinking Custard

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 10 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 quart of half and half (or use a 50/50 mixture of heavy cream, whole milk, and/or half and half)
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of all purpose flour
  • 6 egg yolks, reserve egg whites
  • 1 overflowing teaspoon of vanilla, almond, or rum extract, or to taste
  • Whipped cream, to garnish
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to garnish
  • 1/2 to 1 ounce bourbon or rum, per mug, or to taste, optional
{Punch bowl directions below}


Pour cream or milk into the top of a double boiler. In a separate small bowl, whisk the sugar and flour together and when the water begins to boil, whisk the sugar and flour mixture into the milk. Separate the eggs, reserving the egg whites in the refrigerator for another use, or to add to eggnog, if desired. In that same bowl you used for the sugar, beat the egg yolks until lemon colored and thickened. Temper the eggs with a few scoops of the hot milk, adding the milk to the eggs a little at a time, and whisking constantly while adding. Transfer the tempered egg mixture into the hot milk, whisking constantly until fully incorporated.

Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 180 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. You'll know that the custard is ready when it coats the back of a spoon and you can drag your finger through the middle, leaving a path. Remove from heat and strain through a cheesecloth covered sieve; set aside to cool. Once cooled, stir in your choice of extract flavoring; add nutmeg to taste (I do about 12 passes on a microplane), taste and add additional extract or nutmeg, as desired.

Cover and refrigerate until cold. If desired, just before serving, whip the egg whites separately with a pinch of cream of tartar, until fluffy. Whisk into the cooled custard before pouring into individual mugs. This step can be omitted if desired. Boiled custard can be used as a beverage, with or without a splash of bourbon or rum, and is also excellent over fresh or canned fruit, or when used as a dessert sauce over cake. Should keep about a week in the fridge.

To Prepare Eggnog for a Punch Bowl: Make multiple batches of this recipe, as needed, for the size serving bowl, but prepare each batch individually. Once cooled, add in the extract and nutmeg, and then combine batches together. Use a funnel to transfer into large gallon sized jugs to refrigerate overnight, or several hours until needed.

Just before serving, whip the egg whites separately with a pinch of cream of tartar, until fluffy. Shake the eggnog well, then add to the serving bowl and whisk in choice of alcohol. Drop dollops of whipped cream over the top of the serving bowl, and grate fresh nutmeg on top, if desired.

IMPORTANT: Add a little bit of liquor first to the serving bowl, the total amount will depend on the serving bowl size. If you are doubling this recipe, start with 1/2 cup, then taste before adding more liquor. Generally this doubled boiled custard recipe will take somewhere between 1 and 2 cups of bourbon or rum, or other variations, depending on tastes. Always start with a little, then add more to taste. Add dollops of the whipped egg whites to the serving bowl if desired, and gently fold in. Scoop into mugs and garnish individual mugs with whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg, if desired.

Variations: Can use bourbon, whiskey, or rum each alone, or in combination with sherry, cognac, or brandy, if desired.


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©Deep South Dish
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Check These Recipes Out Too Y'all!

Old Fashioned Baked Custard
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Old Fashioned Custard Pie

Posted by on December 22, 2010
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  1. Oh yum! I wish I lived next door to you... Merry Christmas Mary.

  2. I usually have to buy this from the store. Not this year!!! Thank you!! :D

  3. just made me miss my grandma! Thanks for the sweet memories...

  4. Hey Sandy! Since my site centers a lot around many of the old classic, heritage recipes, that does tend to happen around here a bit. ;) Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Merry Christmas!

  5. I'm going to have to make this recipe this Christmas. I've lived in NW Arkansas for almost 16 years, and to my horror and dismay they do not sell Boiled Custard here and even worse - they don't even know what it is!! It's a crying shame I tell you. My mama always buys a whole bunch for when we visit at Thanksgiving and my husband gets his own bottle- LOL!

  6. I just need a recipe for homemade boiled custard that you drink. my grandmother used to make it out of eggs milk sugar flour and vanilla. cananyone get me the recipe? Thanks!!

    1. Hi Teresa! This recipe is for the homemade boiled drinking custard. If you add in the nutmeg and liquor you make the drinking custard into eggnog.

    2. Thank you so much! Can't wait to make it!!

    3. You're welcome! I can tell you one thing - well, two. It is SO good and you'll probably spoil yourself!! Enjoy.

  7. I'm originally from Tennessee, and Prairie Farms makes the world's BEST boiled custard (now they call it "Holiday Custard"). I have lived in Ohio for 12 years now, and have never been able to find it. I guess it must be a southern thing. So anyhoo, I was looking for some way to make it on my own, but every recipe I find seems too thin, and Prairie Farms is super rich and thick. This seems to be a little thicker than what I have been finding, as it contains actual cream, so I'm gonna give it a try and see what happens. If anybody has any idea as to how to make Prairie Farms "Holiday Custard" I'd be much obliged if you would drop me a line to clue me in. Thank you very much.

    1. I can't help on a copycat recipe, but I do hope that you enjoy my homemade version of drinking custard!

    2. It's been 2 years since Canada Bear posted but I can honestly say this is as good, albeit a little thicker, than the boiled custard in stores. Sadly, I can no longer find it near me during the holiday season. I like it so much better than the egg nog as it's not as sweet.

  8. My grandmother's recipe has an optional bit at the end that thickens it up. After putting the boiled custard into the fridge to cool overnight, beat some heavy whipping cream with a blender until it "peaks". Add to the boiled custard before serving.

  9. For years I have been searching for a boiled custard recipe that was as good as what my grandmother made. Sadly that is one of the few items my mom did not have a recipe for. I made this and have to say it's the closest I have been able to get! This is awesome and so much better the next day when nice and cold and thick. I also discovered that this is beyond awesome over blackberries and have made it more than once.....Thank you.

  10. My five year old had to have his tonsils and adenoids removed and I was looking for something that he could drink/eat that had milk and egg in it, and at least whole milk in it. When I read this was also used to soothe the sick, I knew I had to try this recipe. He loves it, and I've made it a couple of times,and he likes it both lukewarm or cold. Thank you for this recipe. I know I will make for other times other than when we have sickness or recovery in our home because it is delicious and simple. It stayed smooth and didn't get grainy. Your directions were easy to follow. This is a keeper!

    1. Oh Joanne, I hope that sweet baby is feeling better soon, but I'm glad the drinking custard has helped a little.

  11. Mary, I should share my dear mother's boiled custard recipe with you! She passed a year ago at 91 but I can assure you she made it for well over 60 years and there are more people who couldn't wait to get a quart of it. It was carried around as gifts for years. Hers had no flour - her secret was some mini marshmallows. It was literally equal amounts of milk and eggs - 8 cups and 8 eggs would make about 1/2 gallon. Scald the 8 cups milk. While it is heating combine in a mixer bowl 8 eggs, 1 1/4 cup sugar, pinch of salt. While the mixer is running, temper the eggs by slowly pouring in scalded milk. Then with a strainer handy - strain the combined egg and milk mixture back into the double boiler. Add 1 1/2 cup mini marshmallows. Cook slowly, stirring consistently until the mixture coats a spoon (or 180 degrees with a candy thermometer). Strain the mixture one last time back into your mixer bowl, add vanilla extract and let it run until it cools down enough to pour into a container and store. Serve cold with a cruet of bourbon for spiking. Creamy, rich, smooth as silk! Will keep for a week in the refrigerator from Christmas to New Year!

  12. PS. She made as much as a gallon at time. She would just keep the mixture to equal amounts of whole milk and eggs and adjust the sugar and mini marshmallows accordingly.

  13. I've never had boiled custard. Definitely sounds good! However I'm a huge fan of Southern Comfort Eggnog and to me it's the best store bought eggnog you can find. Rich, creamy, thick, and all around yumminess! So, does this recipe taste like that?

    1. Well at the moment, I don't have the two in front of me for a taste comparison, but I would say yes, they are very similar. :) It's a little like trying to compare homemade anything to something similar that is pre-packaged and intended to sit on a shelf for some length of time though - isn't homemade always the best and freshest? This recipe is made with fresh ingredients for immediate consumption - whole milk, cream and/or half & half, sugar, a bit of flour for thickening and egg yolks with fresh extract or nutmeg. Southern Comfort, which is convenient to pick up when you just want some egg nog - and a product that I also enjoy myself occasionally - is a pre-made product containing those same ingredients except along with sugar, it's also sweetened with two forms of corn syrup including high fructose along with artificial flavorings. It's a big sweeter to me due to the heavy use of corn syrup and it also contains a variety of emulsifiers and stabilizers and chemical additives all to help keep it creamy on the shelf for a period of time. Something in it holds a little aftertaste to me, but it's still delicious. Hope that helps!


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